PHOENIX, ARIZONA - NOVEMBER 04: Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns handles the ball during the second half of the NBA game against the Philadelphia 76ers at Talking Stick Resort Arena on November 04, 2019 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the 76ers 114-109. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Having taken an outlook on the Eastern Conference, attention turns to the Western Conference and how all 15 teams are tracking. In one of the tightest races in recent years, every outing will determine whether sides secure a postseason spot or a play-in position.

In the first of three reviews looking at the West, we'll first review the Pacific Division featuring the Sacramento Kings, Los Angeles Clippers, Phoenix Suns, Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers.

Sacramento Kings

Every passing season for the last 17 years, there's been more gloom than bloom for the Sacramento Kings. Not anymore. Behind new Coach Mike Brown, the League's laughing stock are conjuring together a season that puts them well in frame to erase a playoff drought going back to 2006. In a packed Western Conference, Sacramento sits third at 36-25 after starting the season 0-4.

For as long as Kings fans can remember winning hasn't been the norm. There's a sense of familiarity floating back to Sac Town, reminiscent of the early 2000s. Leading Sacramento's charge is their top two All-Stars De'Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis. The chemistry the pair have built since Sabonis' arrival from Indiana midway through last season is impeccable. Sabonis makes the game look crystal clear for a player seven feet tall. An ability to dish out incredible passes and basketball IQ provides his teammates with numerous clean looks from the perimeter.

Sabonis is second for assists amongst power forwards and centres (6.9) only behind 2-time MVP Nikola Jokic (10.1). Elevating his production each season, Fox would finally be given his maiden All-Star nod. Thus far, the former Kentucky star is averaging 25.4 points, 6.3 assists, whilst shooting career-highs 51.5% from the floor and 78.6% from the charity stripe. Fox is blessed with the damaging ability to push tempo in a blink of an eye - similar to prime John Wall. His midrange jumper has been lethal and coming up timely hoops down the stretch shows why is one of the League's most clutch players.

Sacramento can bank on their All-Star as he has been on fire this month averaging 32 points including seven 30-point outings. The move for Kevin Huerter has been a bonus with the former Atlanta Hawks' deadly three-point shot (38.7%) making opposing defences pay on lapses. 2015 NBA Champion Harrison Barnes provides steady scoring, while rookie Keegan Murray has had solid games. In the second unit, Malik Monk has been the instant offence sparkplug supplying the side with invaluable contributions.

However the defence still hovers as a large question mark if the Kings are to finish the regular season with home-court advantage in the opening round of the playoffs. From the lengthy sample size of 61 games, Sacramento finally at last should halt its long-awaited playoff drought.

Los Angeles Clippers

One of this season's title contenders are have had difficulty in conjuring a string of consistent basketball together having only had three three-game winning streaks. To bolster its already deep roster around Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, the Clippers signed 2017 MVP Russell Westbrook. Westbrook would get a buyout by the Utah Jazz after being dealt by the Los Angeles Lakers. His one-and-a-half seasons with the Lakers didn't run smoothly, despite flourishing this season in his new sixth-man role.

Most of this season, George and Leonard have missed a number of games, mainly in Leonard's case because of load management after returning from a partially torn ACL. Since the turn of the calendar year, Leonard's minutes have considerably lifted going from 31.9 in December, to 35.1 in January to 37.8 this month. As he grown ever increasingly comfortable, the former 2-time finals MVP is hitting his stride again. As is George who has consistently shot well shooting 46.1% overall, 38.4% from three averaging 23.5 points. It's the reason why four years ago, the franchise were highly keen on bringing the duo together to contend for the franchise's maiden championship.

Despite the John Wall experiment not working out and Reggie Jackson eventually falling out of the rotation before being traded to the Charlotte Hornets and then signing with the Denver Nuggets, the Clippers still possess considerable depth. The moves for veteran Eric Gordon, Centre Mason Plumlee, and second-year guard Bones Hyland only supply the team with multiple bench options. Norman Powell is firmly in the conversation for the sixth man of the year award having taken off since January.

Intrigue in bringing in Westbrook actually adds to the Clippers' dimension not hinder it, considering the side is 24th for pace. For his career, Westbrook has always played one way: relentless and breakneck speed at 94 feet. The Clippers don't have the players to go flat out to the rim, but the reason his fit could potentially pay off is the fact the Clippers have multiple three-point shooters. From Powell (42.3%), Leonard (40.2%), Terrance Mann (39.2%), Nicolas Batum (38.4%), George (38.4%), Marcus Morris Sr (37.6%) and Gordon (35%). All Westbrook has to do is serve out assists on a platter and his new teammates will take care of the rest.

Plumlee's addition provides the Clippers valuable backup to Ivica Zubac especially come the playoffs and a potential first-round matchup with Phoenix and their Centre De'Andre Ayton. He also brings terrific court vision as a passer. Despite dropping six of eight and its normally stringent defence leaking quicker than a sieve, the Clippers still have what it takes to be a serious threat as many predicted before the season's beginnings.

 

Phoenix Suns

Phoenix has been a tidal wave ride. After bursting out of the gates to a 15-6 start after beating Chicago on November 30, the Suns would hit a tailspin. When superstar Devin Booker went down with a groin injury so did the team's play. In Booker's absence, the Suns lost 18 of its next 24 to fall three games under .500 (21-24) after being routed by Memphis on January 16. Since the defeat, Phoenix has won 12 of its past 17 to propel into fourth spot in the log-jammed West.

And their chances of making a serious push only got stronger.

Arguably one of the game's greatest scorers Kevin Durant would request a trade to Phoenix. During the off-season, Durant signalled his intentions for a trade to the Suns having being strongly linked to the franchise. Fast forward a few months later, and he will be suiting up. Durant hasn't played since spraining his MCL against Miami on January 8 - his final game as a Brooklyn Net.

It's obvious what Durant brings. His smooth handles for a seven-footer, a picturesque mid-range jumper and bullying smaller matchups on the block. Combine him alongside Chris Paul, Devin Booker, and De'Andre Ayton - that's going to be intimidating for the rest of their Western Conference rivals. Although having to give up Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson to bring in Durant, Phoenix firmly believes they are in the frame to contend for a championship.

Durant isn't the only new face to the team with T.J. Warren returning back to the team who drafted him in 2014. To address its lack of bench scoring, Phoenix brought in instant offence man Terrence Ross. Labelled the "human torch" by long-time Orlando Magic TV play-by-play broadcaster David Steele, the 31-year-old brings tremendous scoring punch. With backup point guard Cameron Payne returning from a foot injury this will allow Paul to reduce his minutes whilst keeping his 37-year-old legs fresh.

In making two important moves to push into Championship status, the Suns can set their sights on making a serious run.

Golden State Warriors

After one of its underrated Championship seasons - fourth in eight seasons, Golden State has felt more inconsistencies than consistencies. Possessing a 32-30 record, the Warriors' woes have been defensive. Golden State's porous defence has seen him allow 117.9 points per outing, ranking 26th only ahead of the worst three teams this season - Houston Charlotte, Detroit, and San Antonio.

With its unusually reliable defence taking a hit, its road record has been abysmal. Only 7-23 away from the Chase Centre, the Warriors' horror record is only better than Detroit (7-25), San Antonio (6-26), and Houston (5-27). Superstar Steph Curry has been on his usual scoring barrages averaging 29.4 points on 49.5% shooting, 42.7% from distance and 92.2% from the foul line. However, the 4-time Champion won't be available for another two games after the All-Star break with a lower leg injury sustained against Dallas on February 4.

The loss of Andrew Wiggins has left a major hole in the Warriors' defence, with the former 2014 top overall pick getting the opposing team's best guard/small forward. Curry's splash brother Klay Thompson progressively is finding his old feathery touch once again after a slow start. Placed on a minutes restriction at the beginning of the season, Thompson's production has considerably risen. A 54-point masterclass in the triple overtime thriller over Atlanta and his 42-point performance including 12 triples against Oklahoma City still shows he has plenty of juice left after having gone through an ACL and an Achilles.

Starting centre Kevon Looney's tangibles are central to the Warriors defence, Donte Di Vincenzo has been a handy acquisition, while sixth man Jordan Poole, Jonathan Kuminga and Anthony Lamb all been solid contributors. Bringing back Gary Payton II is going to shore up its perimeter defence, having being a barometer for the side's Championship last season.

At this stage, Golden State shouldn't be dismissed from the West's contenders having won three of four after the All-Star to jump to the number five seed.

Los Angeles Lakers

It's been one wild ride for the Los Angeles Lakers as it seeks to climb into the play-in tournament. The Lakers endured a rocky start starting the campaign 2-10 before slowly turning their fortunes around. Although having a 29-33 record, the Lakers are only a game out of the play-in and 3 games out of sixth. It goes to show how crowded the West is with no margin for error.

There aren't any more superlatives to describe how LeBron James is producing incredible number even at the age of 38. Like last season, the King is averaging 29.5 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 6.9 assists in 36.1 minutes of action. LeBron would celebrate a milestone by becoming the League's all-time leading scorer passing the legendary Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387) during the third quarter against Oklahoma City on February 7.

As James continues to chug along to lift the Lakers with time running out, eight-time All-Star Anthony Davis has had monstrous outings. Unfortunately, injuries yet again have put him on the sidelines having only played 37 of the Lakers' 62 contests. Getting Davis healthy is a must for the Lakers to make inroads.

Having departed ways with Russell Westbrook, the Lakers addressed many major issues including acquiring shooting, youth, and athleticism. The additions of Malik Beasley, D'Angelo Russell (second stint as a Laker), address the Lakers' glaring area - three-point shooting. The Lakers rank 26th in three-point percentage (33.7%), and 29th in three-pointers made (10.5). Beasley and Russell will make a difference in that department. Both are efficient shooters with Beasley a career 38% shooter from deep and Russell a 36% three-point shooter. Their shooting will make it far easier for the team, especially LeBron who for his career excels with floor spacers on the perimeter to feed the ball to.

Bringing in Rui Hachimura gives the Lakers flexibility when they opt for a small lineup by playing him either at the three or four spot. Along with former 2017 lottery pick Mo Bamba and 2018 second-round selection Jarred Vanderbilt bolsters the Lakers' athleticism defensively. Both players are excellent defenders who are going to give their all - particularly Vanderbilt who was Minnesota's defensive barometer in qualifying for the playoffs a season ago.

Having made the necessary moves to retool and address certain deficiencies, the Lakers push begins. And with the way the West is shaping anything is possible.